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Chapter 21 Tarzan and the Castaways by Edgar Rice Burroughs

"I certainly do not like the idea of having those men around here all the time," said Janette; "I am afraid of them, especially Krause."

"I'll look after him," said de Groote. "Let me know if he ever makes any advances."

"And now look!" exclaimed Janette, pointing along the beach. "Here come all those Lascars back, too. Those fellows give me the creeps."

As she ceased speaking, the report of two rifle shots came faintly but distinctly to their ears. "That must be Patricia!" exclaimed the Colonel. "She must be in trouble."

"She has probably had to shoot that creature," said Penelope hopefully.

The Colonel had run to his hut and gotten his rifle; and when he started in the direction from which the sound of the shot had come, he was followed by de Groote, Algy, Crouch, and Bolton.

As the foliage of the jungle closed about Bolton's back, Schmidt turned to Krause and grinned. "What's funny?" demanded the latter.

"Let's see what we can find in the way of rifles and ammunition," said Schmidt to the other three men. "This looks like our day."

"What are you men doing?" demanded Penelope Leigh. "Don't you dare go into those huts."

Janette started to run toward her hut to get her rifle, but Schmidt overtook her and hurled her aside. "No funny business," he warned.

The four men collected all the remaining firearms in the camp and then at pistol points forced the Lascars to load up with such stores as Schmidt desired.

"Pretty good haul," he said to Krause. "I think we've got about everything we want now."

"Maybe you have, but I haven't," replied the animal collector; then he walked over to Janette. "Come along, sweetheart," he said; "we're going to start all over again right where we left off."

"Not I," said Janette, backing away.

Krause seized one of her arms. "Yes, you; and if you know what's good for you, you'd better not make any trouble."

The girl tried to pull away, and Krause struck her. "For heaven's sake, go along with him," cried Penelope Leigh. "Don't make a scene; I hate scenes. Anyway, you belong with him; you certainly have never belonged in my camp."

Half-stunned by the blow, Janette was dragged away; and the Colonel's wife watched them start back along the beach in the direction from which they had come.

"The Colonel shall hear about your stealing our stores, you scoundrels," she called after them.

Xatl Din and his hundred warriors came through the forest spread out in open order, that they might leave no well-marked trail; and as they came, they heard two sharp, loud sounds which seemed to come from but a short distance ahead of them. None of these men had ever heard the report of a firearm before, and so they had no idea of what it was. They crept cautiously forward, their eyes and ears constantly alert. Xatl Din was in the lead, and as he came to a more open place in the forest, he stopped suddenly, for a strange and unaccustomed sight met his eye. On the ground lay a huge, striped beast, such as he had never seen before. It was evidently dead, and above it stood a figure strangely garbed, who held a long black shiny thing that was neither bow, arrow, nor spear.

Presently Xatl Din realized that the creature was a woman; and, being an intelligent man, he surmised that the noise he had heard had come from that strange thing she held, and that with it, she had doubtless killed the huge beast which lay at her feet. Xatl Din further reasoned that if she could have killed so large and evidently ferocious an animal, she could even more easily kill men; and, therefore, he did not come out into the open, but withdrew and gave whispered instructions to his men.

Now the Mayans slipped silently around through the jungle until they had encircled Patricia, and then while Xatl Din beat on a tree with his sword to make a noise that would attract the girl's attention in his direction, two of his men slipped out of the jungle behind her, and crept noiselessly toward her.

As Patricia stood looking in the direction from which the sound had come, listening intently, arms were thrown around her from behind and her rifle was snatched from her hands; then a hundred strangely garbed warriors, resplendent in feathered headdresses and embroidered loin-cloths came running from the jungle to surround her.

Patricia recognized these men immediately, not only from the descriptions she had had from Itzl Cha and Tarzan, but also because she had read a great deal concerning the civilization of the ancient Mayans. She was as familiar with their civilization, their religion, and their culture as the extensive research of many archaeological expeditions had been able to bring to light. It seemed to her that she had been suddenly carried back centuries to a long dead past, to which these little brown men belonged. She knew what her capture meant to her, for she knew the fate of Mayan prisoners. Her only hope lay in the possibility that the men of her party might be able to rescue her, and that hope was strong because of her faith in Tarzan.

"What are you going to do with me?" she said in the broken Mayan she had learned from Itzl Cha.

"That is for Cit Coh Xiu to decide," he said. "I shall send you back to Chichen Itza, back to the palace of the king." Then he instructed four of his warriors to take the prisoner to Cit Coh Xiu.

As Patricia was led away, Xatl Din and his remaining warriors continued on in the direction of Camp Saigon. The noble was quite pleased with himself. Even if he were not successful in bringing Itzl Cha back to Chichen Itza, he had at least furnished another sacrifice in her stead, and he would doubtless be praised by both the king and the high priest.

Colonel Leigh and his companions followed, quite by accident, the same trail by which Patricia had come. They climbed the ledge which ran around the shoulder of the mountain and, although badly winded, kept on almost at a run. Their advance was noisy and without caution, for their one thought was to find Patricia as quickly as possible; and when they were suddenly met by a band of plumed warriors, they were taken wholly by surprise. With savage war cries, the Mayans charged, hurling stones from their slings.

"Fire over their heads!" commanded the Colonel.

The terrifying noise momentarily stopped the Mayans, but when Xatl Din realized that it was only noise and that it had not injured any of his men, he ordered them to charge again; and once more their hideous war cries sounded in the ears of the whites.

"Shoot to kill!" snapped the Colonel; "we've got to stop those beggars before they reach us with their swords."

The rifles barked again, and four warriors fell. The others wavered, but Xatl Din urged them on.

These things that killed with a loud noise at a distance terrified the Mayans; and although some of them almost came to grips with the whites, they finally turned and fled, taking their wounded with them. Following their strategy, they scattered through the jungle so as to leave no well-marked trail to their city; and the whites, going in the wrong direction, became lost, for it is difficult to orient one's self in a dense jungle; and when they came to a steep declivity down a mountain side, they thought that they had crossed the mountain and were descending the opposite slope.

After stumbling about in dense shrubbery for an hour, they came suddenly to the end of the jungle, only to stand looking at one another in amazement, for before them lay the beach and their own camp.

"Well, I'll be damned!" ejaculated the Colonel.

As they approached the camp, Tibbett came to meet them, a troubled look on his face.

"Something wrong, Tibbet?" demanded the Colonel.

"I'll say there's something wrong, sir. I just came back from the Saigon with a load of planks to find that Schmidt and his outfit have stolen all the firearms and ammunition that were left in camp, as well as a considerable part of our stores."

"The scoundrels!" ejaculated the Colonel.

"But that's not the worst of it," continued Tibbet; "they took Miss Laon away with them."

De Groote went white. "Which way did they go, Tibbet?" he asked.

"Back up the beach," replied the second mate; "probably to their old camp."

De Groote, heartbroken and furious, started away. "Wait," said the Colonel; "where are you going?"

"I'm going after them," he said.

"They are all heavily armed," said the Colonel; "you couldn't do anything alone, and we can't spare men to go with you now—that is, we couldn't all go and leave Mrs. Leigh alone here again, with the chance that those painted devils may attack the camp at any time."

"I'm going anyway," said de Groote doggedly.

"I'll go with you," said Tibbet, and then two of the sailors from the Naiad also volunteered.

"I wish you luck," said the Colonel, "but for heaven's sake be careful. You'd better sneak up on the camp from the jungle side and snipe them from the concealment of the underbrush."

"Yes, sir," replied de Groote, as he and the three who had volunteered to accompany him started up the beach at a dog-trot.

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